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Huawei and Etisalat have announced the signing of a new agreement that will see the two companies working together to trial ultra-fast 40Gbps GPON Technology across Etisalat Group footprint in the coming four years (27-2-2014)

Growing data expectations in Africa • Jan 2015

Data for a 21st century Africa

Telecom operators will have to find better, smarter ways to serve a data-hungry population throughout Africa

Data consumption continues to grow at an incredible pace globally. Over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past two years, and the total amount of data being captured and stored by industry doubles almost year on year. It is expected that by 2020, the amount of digital information in existence will have grown from 3.2 zettabytes today to 40 zettabytes.  Every minute we send 204 million emails, generate 1,8 million Facebook likes, send 278 thousand Tweets and up-load 200 thousand photos to Facebook.

Coupled to this, cellular phones are now even more accessible to the general population than they ever have been, with 17.9% of rural households in South Africa alone accessing the internet from mobile devices and 30.8% of South African households using mobile devices to access the internet, according to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey report published in June 2014. The sheer size of the African continent, coupled with the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is rising faster than the rest of the world (Population Reference Bureau predicts that Africa’s population will double to 2.4 billion by 2050) means that there are already several hundred million internet users who are demanding internet performance, and this number will rise at an inconceivable pace. 

Peter Greaves, Aurecon’s Expertise leader for Data & ICT Facilities comments: “The impact of this is that telecom operators will have to find better, smarter ways to serve a data-hungry population throughout Africa. Corporations and governments are also becoming aware of the increased need for data centres and the fact that outsourcing these services allows them to focus on their core activities. Concerns about unreliable power and inadequate security can similarly be delegated to a dedicated third party that will guarantee the required uptime and data integrity.”

He adds: “While it’s true that data centres can be remote, countries (especially African countries) need to start looking at more local solutions in order to ensure data sovereignty and efficient network performance.  This demand will drive a significant data centre build-out in both East and West Africa over the next 20 years and now is the time to start reassessing the number of data centres in Africa, where they are located and how we can create scalable solutions to meet future data needs.” 

“There are many complexities involved with building data centres that become long-term assets. Creating long-term, dynamic, scalable data centres in Africa will require us to draw on the key lessons learned from around the globe as well as the knowledge from local experts in the field,” believes Greaves.  

Just some of the key considerations involved in creating long-term data centre assets are explored below.  

Sustainably minded design

Data centres are significant users of energy and are estimated to consume some 2% of the world’s energy. Today’s data centre owners are placing a greater emphasis on the performance and even official rating of their centres.  

In Africa, passive design measures which draw on the local climate to cool data centres can be employed in order to reduce cooling needs. Using free cool air at night to pass through the conditioning systems; or exploiting ground-source cooling are both mechanisms that can make a significant difference to the electricity that is needed to cool a data centre.  

“Better performance translates into reduced operational costs, ultimately improving the overall competitiveness of a data centre,” believes Greaves.

Site selection - withstanding natural disasters and communication infrastructure is key 

Critically, power outages at these centres can have a significant effect on business operations – compromising crucial business information, with severe consequences. In line with this, data centre site selection in Africa needs to take into account the likelihood of natural disaster conditions such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, heavy rain, high temperatures, fires, epidemics and floods. Modern data centres can be built and retrofitted to withstand natural disasters, but the overall impact of a natural disaster still needs to be considered during the site selection process. 

In addition, data centres need to have significant communications infrastructure from a variety of sources in order to minimise the risk of interruptions and failure, which could have a major impact on a service provider’s customers. Bandwidth availability and the distance of existing IT infrastructure from data centres, such as marine IT links,  needs to be planned to ensure new data centres are efficient and economically viable.  

Skilled data centre operators

The people who manage and work in data centres need more than IT skills. A successful data centre requires a culmination of IT, facilities, data security and storage skills, to name but a few. There are also a number of compliance and regularity concerns that need to be adhered to and the right people, with the right skills, are needed for these critical positions. • 1/15

Aurecon has been involved in data centres for over 15 years, including forming part of the project teams on some of the largest data centres around the world. This international experience, coupled with our local engineering experience of conditions throughout Africa, means that we have the skills to avoid the pitfalls that many other countries have seen when planning and building new data centres. • Our team of over 500 building specialists as well as our local know-how ensures that we are able to adapt international best practice to produce local excellence locally. • “The increasing demand for datacentres in Africa will lead to an inspiring, large scale build of data centres and usher in a digital revolution in Africa,” believes Greaves. • “Done right, the evolution and expansion of data centres will enable the globalisation of the African continent. If these are situated close to reliable, expandable data links linking the population of Africa to all parts of the world in real time, they will accelerate learning, promote ease of business and allow African people as well as businesses to expand their knowledge and corporations. These are just some of the benefits that the continent can look forward to in the future if data centres are planned properly today.”

Strand Consult Research Note • Nov 2013

What drives competition on the broadband market in the USA and what will stimulate it in the EU?

Is it regulation, government subsidies, or technology development?

There is no doubt that that many broadband markets around the world are competitive. Speeds are increasing faster than consumer demand.  At the same time, mobile broadband prices are plummeting. For many companies this is a war. DSL and cable companies occupt the front lines with fiber, mobile, and other technologies on the flanks.

This research note examines the American and EU broadband experience, how technologies affect competition, and the the risk associated with government subsidies for broadband.

The product is called broadband, but it varies widely
On one front are the traditional DSL providers. They can be divided into two types of companies: those that own the original fixed line copper infrastructure and those that rent space on the infrastructure to produce their own DSL products.
On the other side of the front are the cable TV providers that deliver broadband and fixed line telephony in addition to their television offerings. The cable TV providers have been successful in many countries in upgrading their TV customers to triple play products and are many see lower churn among their customers as a result.
On the flanks in a number of countries are a variety of fiber to the premises providers that are trying to build new infrastructure in order to offer customers very high-speed broadband connections and triple play solutions.
On the opposite flank are mobile operators. They offer increasingly faster products at increasingly lower prices with  mobile broadband via 3G technologies such as HSDPA and LTE.  It is a fact that the bandwidth that many mobile operators offer is faster than most of their customers need or care to buy.

Telecommunication companies, regulators and politicians can learn from the U.S. experience
Strand Consult’s report on the broadband market in the United States The 10 Myths and Realities of Broadband Internet in the USA described how the world's largest broadband market looks and what drives competition.

The analysis shows that different technologies (DSL, cable, and mobile) drive competition and investment. It is clear that history and operators’ technological  choices have had a greater impact on broadband development than regulation. To put it glibly, the situation in the U.S. today is the result of a civil war and three lucky punches. Read the research note.

Competition on the mobile broadband market
Strand Consult’s report  “Successful Strategies for the Mobile Broadband Market” examines the impact of mobile broadband and the winners and losers. Strand Consult concludes that the competition on the mobile broadband market has an enormous impact on the entire telecommunications industry, and particularly broadband providers. Here are the trends that Strand Consult sees:

  1. Companies that purchase access to copper and deliver their own DSL services experience that the access price they pay is more expensive than the cost of a low speed mobile broadband connection. This is already the case in Denmark and Sweden.
  2. Telcos selling DSL on their own copper networks extend the life span of their copper by using technologies such as VDSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ and retain some of their customers by offering IPTV in addition to their existing broadband packages.
  3. Companies offering broadband connections via fiber are having difficulty attracting enough customers to justify the infrastructure investments they have made over the years. Many of these providers have no option but to report an extraordinarily large infrastructure depreciation in their financial statements.
  4. Cable TV providers that sell triple play packages see that their customers are not as price sensitive as many other broadband segments. In practice cable TV providers often poach customers from the traditional DSL providers.
  5. The battle over the mobile broadband market is so fierce that prices are decreasing faster than can be justified by the customer growth. In practice the mobile broadband market players can undercut general prices on the broadband market.

Strand Consult believes that the development of the mobile broadband area will have enormous consequences for all companies that produce and market broadband, and the trend of decreasing prices for mobile broadband will spread to other broadband markets.

Strand Consult’s report “Successful Strategies for the Mobile Broadband Market” describes these developments and the future mobile broadband market. It analyses the strategic consequences of that development and how it will influence the other broadband players.

Will government subsidies provide citizens with better broadband? Strand Consult says no
Stories from a number of other countries suggest that the use of government subsidies for broadband creates marketplace distortions. Strand Consult has worked extensively with this topic and is generally opposed to using taxpayer money to build broadband networks.

The long explanation is available here. The short version is that there is a high risk for inefficiency (shortages and surpluses) when the government gets involved the broadband market. If the market is driven by public tender instead of consumer demand don’t expect efficient outcomes that make good use of taxpayer money.

Strand Consult finds little justification to provide government subsidies to the telecom industry, which is generally a profitable business. There is enough money in the telecom industry to build the infrastructure customers demand and, given the right framework, telcos can invest in areas with geographic and financial challenges.

Essentially  when a government defines an area for subsidy, operators will take the subsidy and then downgrade investment in other areas.  By providing subsidies, governments unwittingly create a telecom monster that starts to feed on public money.

To be sure, politicians and regulators want to ensure broadband coverage, and Strand Consult offers a number of strategies and tools to help save on subsidies and implement models which increase the incentive for telcos to prioritize investment in challenged areas. • 11/13

Contact Strand Consult to get a copy of the free broadband report as well as other products and products and services specifically for governments.

Strand Consult has worked with the broadband market for a number of years, published a series of reports on the topic, and conducted workshops that help broadband operators be more successful in a competitive market.

Learn more about Strand Consult’s report “Successful Strategies for the Mobile Broadband Market” by completing the request form and receive information about how this unique report can help you understand the development of the mobile broadband market and its impact to your business.

TOP - Cover -

Ultra-fast 40Gbps GPON Technology

For the first time in the Region

Etisalat Group & Huawei to Boost Region’s
Fiber Connectivity by trialing 40Gbps GPON Technology

Laying the foundation for the next generation of super-speed connectivity, Etisalat Group, a leading telecoms operator in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and Huawei—a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider—have announced the signing of a new agreement that will see the two companies - for the first time in the region - working together to trial ultra-fast 40Gbps GPON Technology across Etisalat Group footprint in the coming four years.

antennaEtisalat Group and Huawei outlined the roadmap for trialing a first of its kind 40Gbps fiber network that can eventually offer more reliable, faster, and affordable broadband telecommunication services to households and businesses. The project is based on GPON (Gigabit Passive Optic Network) technology, which can provide the speed and bandwidth required for seamless services including voice over IP, high-speed Internet, and IPTV.

“The future of the digital society remains a promising one as people, businesses and cities become more profoundly connected through vibrant information and communication technologies,” says Hatem Bamatraf, Chief Technology Officer at Etisalat Group. “Etisalat Group remains committed to bringing its customers the latest and most advanced services. We have focused on constantly enhancing our networks, creating strong partnerships, and bringing innovative technologies to our markets”, he added.

“We look forward to pioneering new fiber optic services in the Middle East together with Etisalat and making it possible to enjoy a more immersive communication experience at home or in the office,” says Said Alan Wang, President of Huawei –Etisalat Global Key Account. “The 40G GPON technology will further enable Etisalat to integrate future upgrades with existing GPON deployment plans, giving more control over the total cost of operation throughout the entire life cycle of the network.”

Fiber GPON technology is emerging as the future of fixed networks given its scalability and compatibility with legacy infrastructure. GPON is the underlying core technology that is being already being deployed nationwide in countries like Singapore for their next generation Nationwide Broadband Network initiative. • 2/14


Strand Consult Research Note • Nov 2013

Net neutrality is shaping up to be the key debate for the telecom industry in Europe in 2014

Here are four risks operators face.

The telecom industry is accustomed to a transparent regulatory process where rules are clear, and each party gets the chance to express its opinion. With the net neutrality debate, those days are over. 

Using social media and the press, small actors can exert an outsized influence on the debate.  Operators will come under fire when and where they least expect it, and they will likely be attacked for a mistake.

The EU Commission has a proposal for net neutrality, and many supporters of the issue want to bring it forward in the European Parliament.

These include the Council of Europe, the OECD, the World Bank, telecom regulators, various political advocacy groups, and luminaries such as Tim Berners Lee.

In its new report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments Strand Consult has analyzed the net neutrality debate in countries around the world. Here are four risks facing operators in the coming net neutrality debate.

  1. Net neutrality organizations are smarter than ever. Over the years of the debate, net neutrality organizations have grown smarter, more shrewd, and more sophisticated.  They are funded by major philanthropic foundations and some of the largest internet companies which have a financial stake in the outcome of the debate. Net neutrality organizations hire lawyers and spokespersons from the best universities. Many organizations engage in “astroturfing” which attempts to create the appearance of a grassroots campaign by enlisting the support of ordinary individuals. Even if net neutrality is overturned in the US, net neutrality organizations will not be deterred. They will launch new campaigns, ideally to reclassify all broadband providers as common carriers. The power and creativity of these organizations should not be underestimated

  2. Net neutrality can give politicians visibility. Politicians can use the net neutrality debate as an opportunity to profile themselves in the public.  Much of the net neutrality rhetoric sounds good in the ear of consumers and press, but unfortunately politicians frequently don’t have the time to acquaint themselves with the facts. The net neutrality debate can make rookie politicians visible, as they can leverage the press, net neutrality organizations, and social media to build their image.

  3. The media loves a conflict. Whether or not they are true, net neutrality stories can be cast in dramatic terms, like the standoff between David and Goliath. These stories generate social media activity and journalists succeed getting more attention for their stories.

  4. Operators are not prepared. A net neutrality attack can appear when and where operators least expect it.  Any statement from an employee in the organization can be used against the operator, regardless of truth or context.  Given the large size of their organizations, it can be difficult operators to coordinate internally on an issue that is a moving target such as net neutrality. Additional pressure falls on public affairs and public policy departments which may be blindsided by issues and topics they have never addressed before.

In its report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments Strand Consult details how operators have succumbed to these risks.  It describes how a simple statement from an operator to shareholders turned into a campaign that created a net neutrality law in just 2 months.

The comprehensive report provides a number of items to help operators prepare for the debate.  It includes the 30 arguments for net neutrality including the academic background, evidence and justifications. Each argument is followed by a rebuttal with counter arguments and counter evidence. It includes the relevant points on human rights law, economics and engineering to help operators engage in the debate. 

It provides a global overview of the different interpretations of net neutrality.  It also provides a detailed discussion of how competition law can address net neutrality concerns and a list of relevant cases from the ICT domain. Strand Consult has synthesized this information to expose the paradoxes, hypocrisy and double standards of net neutrality. • 11/13

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments reviews the history and development of net neutrality for ideas how how the debate can be revitalized to address broader challenges and concerns of internet discrimination and how to help net neutrality supporters, regulators, and politicians to refocus their efforts using existing laws and institutions which are more appropriate to address human rights violations and issues of market power.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders' Arguments is a unique and valuable toolset for those interested in net neutrality and a smart way to save time and resources when preparing for the debate. Get more information about the report today.

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